Our certain hope: Immanuel

Confidence of God’s presence with us is the bridge of certainty over which our faith walks forward. His presence is also what gives us our identity and purpose here on this earth.

Immanuel. He comes and lives with us. He builds of us a spiritual Temple — not only a place where He dwells but also a living sign to all the world that He is here. On this earth, His children are to be His voice of mercy, His hands of compassion, and His heart of unconditional love.

And as the Creator builds His Temple of living stones, the rescuer King makes His sisters and brothers partners in the mission:

“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20)

So … what is ahead for you today, child of God? What awaits you in the next week?

What?

You have no idea?

Neither do I.

Life can change completely in the blink of an eye.

We have only these certainties: We know who we are. And we know Christ will be with us.

To the very end of this age.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.

(Psalm 23:4) 

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More Promises of His Presence: Genesis 28:15-16; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Psalm 16; Psalm 73:23; Psalm 110:5; Psalm 121:5, 7; Psalm 139; Psalm 145:18; Isaiah 41:9,10,13; Isaiah 42:16; Isaiah 43:1, 5; Isaiah 46:3-4; Matthew 28:18-20; John 14:16, 18, 19, 23; Hebrews 13:5; James 4:8; 1 John 4:13, 15, 16

 

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

“Never stop praying”

“Keep in touch.”

“Hello…”

“It’s been too long. Let’s get together.”

“I miss you.”

“Shall we work together on this?”

Those are all words I’ve heard or read in the last weeks. Whether it’s a simple greeting from a complete stranger in an email or words from a friend I haven’t seen for awhile, none of those relationships will grow if I don’t respond.

Here’s another:

“Never stop praying.”

That advice from the apostle Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:17) has spoken to me this week as we meditated on the constant presence of God.

God is here with me, in every moment of my day. But if I don’t come close to Him, I can so easily forget that.

If I don’t listen for His words to me in Scripture and I don’t talk with Him, then our relationship suffers. Just like the human relationships represented by the opening quotes above, if I am not in communication with my Father, if I don’t listen to Him and respond to His presence, I miss out on so much.

Father, I am beginning to know how much I miss when I fail to talk to thee in prayer, and through prayer to receive into my life the strength and the guidance which only thou canst give. Forgive me for the pride and the presumption that make me continue to struggle to manage my own affairs to the exhaustion of my body, the weariness of my mind, the trial of my faith. (From The Prayers of Peter Marshall)

Exhaustion of body, weariness of mind, and trial of faith — a perfect description of me at times. I would add one more thing that happens when I stop praying: I miss a richness of relationship with my God.

“Never stop praying.”

Never let go of the awareness of God’s presence. Come close to Him. Listen. Talk.

He will guide, support, and strengthen us every step of the way. This is the wellspring of our very lives, children of God!

Jesus said, “Life is not measured by how much you own…a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (Luke 12:15, 21).

Riches to you, my friend.

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Psalm Prayer:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.

(Psalm 23:4) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

When we need assurance of His presence

Discouraged and overwhelmed. Scared. Feeling as if I had run too fast in the wrong direction and my dream was now plummeting off a cliff to its death, I wrote a short prayer in my journal. Only one line: “I need a great Comforter.”

I had, as the old saying goes, bit off more than I could chew. I had quit a long-time job to start my own freelance business. Shortly after, I signed up for a course on writing specifically for the Internet, building a platform, and gaining an audience. And I hit a point when I was completely lost. Didn’t understand a thing. For most of my life, if I applied myself I could learn whatever new thing stood in front of me. But here I’d hit a brick wall.

Had I made a disastrous, irrevocable choice? What if I was about to discover that not only did I lack a mind for techie stuff, but I also had absolutely no skill with words? What if the whole premise on which I wanted to build a business was an illusion? What if …? And what if…?

I needed the Comforter. I needed to know that God still walked the path with me. I needed to know He was carrying me.

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The disciples of Jesus had even more questions and were feeling even more lost than I was. Like orphans. Jesus knew that. He promised them He wouldn’t leave them alone, but would send “the Comforter.”

His Spirit comes to live so intimately with the children of God that He becomes part of us and we become part of Him.

That’s amazing, isn’t it? Sometimes I marvel at the miracle of marriage as God intended it — when two people become one. And this relationship and life we have with the Holy Spirit is even more amazing.

We think of the Spirit as our guide, our teacher, the potter who forms us, and the helper who gives strength. He is also the Comforter. What does that mean in your life?

He comforts me by assuring me of God’s presence.
He comforts by reminding me of my Father’s promises.
He comforts by refreshing me, renewing my thinking and my hope.
He comforts by opening my eyes to new truth in Scripture.
He comforts by giving me connections to other people I’d not normally connect with.

You could add to this list.

And I’m sure you’ve weathered storms greater than failing to finish an online class. I have, too. But I think we often lean more heavily on God in the fiercest storms and don’t recognize that the Comforter lives with us and comforts us even in the smallest of ways, on the most ordinary days.

I can’t explain the “how” of the Spirit living with us. But I can vouch for the certainty of His help and comfort.

Jesus said His Spirit would never leave us (John 14:16). He has come and made His home with us, and for everyone who cries out for His presence, He is constant.

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Psalm Prayer:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.

(Psalm 23:4) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Drawing close to God

The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.
(Psalm 145:18)

Come close to God, and God will come close to you.
(James 4:8)

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O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
(Psalm 63:1)

“I have cared for you since you were born.
Yes, I carried you before you were born.

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime —
until your hair is white with age.
(Isaiah 46:3,4)

My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
(Psalm 63:1)

“I have chosen you
and will not throw you away.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

“I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

“For I hold you by your right hand —
I, the Lord your God.

“And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you’.”
(Isaiah 41:9, 10, 13)

Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.

I cling to you;
your strong hand holds me securely.
I am always with you.
(Psalm 63:7, 8; 73:23)

Amen.

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Psalm Prayer:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.

(Psalm 23:4) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Right here, all the time

It was obviously a special date. He wore khakis and a dress shirt; she was in a dress and well accessorized with jewelry, makeup, and heels. Hand in hand, they walked down the sidewalk toward me… both of them oblivious to the other, since each was lost in animated conversation on their cell phone. But—at least they were holding hands!

That was years ago, just when cell phones were beginning to grow as extensions of people’s heads and hands. Yet I’m often reminded of the scene. I can still see those kids—holding hands, supposedly sharing an intimate, romantic date, yet both so far away from the other in their thoughts.

And every time I recall the picture, I’m reminded how often I walk with God in exactly the same way.

Psalm 139 tells us of God’s constant presence. No matter where we go, He is there with us. Traveling, at home, in heaven or the grave, riding the wings of the morning and dwelling by the farthest ocean, in the darkness and in the light, anywhere, everywhere, He is with us. He never leaves us.

Take a moment to list everywhere you intend to be today, and then add…

… even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me. (Psalm 139:10)

I see too often that I’m every bit as oblivious as those teenagers. Yes, I want to hold hands and forge a relationship with my God; but most of the time, I’m distracted by many other voices and feel compelled to answer every other call that comes along and clamors for my attention.

And I forget.
The One I say I thirst for, long for, and love above all else … is right there with me.
But I forget.
His hand of blessing is always on my head. (Psalm 139:5).
But I forget, because I’m too preoccupied with other things.

I want to walk today much more aware that He is right here with me, holding my hand. All the time.

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Psalm Prayer:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.

(Psalm 23:4) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)